Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan recently announced a set of policy proposals that will lead Minnesota to 100% clean energy in the state’s electricity sector by 2040. The policies build on the success that Minnesota has already achieved in reducing dependence on fossil fuels and increasing the use of clean energy resources to power the state while ensuring reliable, affordable electricity.
“The time to fight climate change is now,” said Governor Walz. “Not only is clean energy the right and responsible choice for future generations, clean energy maximizes job creation and grows our economy, which is especially important as we work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. I am proud to announce a set of policy proposals that will lead Minnesota to 100% clean energy in the state’s electricity sector by 2040. Minnesotans have the ingenuity and innovation needed to power this future, and we are ready to pioneer the green energy economy.”
“Burning fossil fuels pollutes our environment, permanently changes our climate for the worse, and wastes money on inefficient and outdated practices. This plan sets a clear path and destination for Minnesota’s clean energy future. Minnesota should be a state that continues to lead on the clean energy economy, and we know we can,” said Lieutenant Governor Flanagan.
“Over the past 15 years, Minnesota has transformed how we generate electricity. Use of renewable energy increased from 6% to 24%. By putting standards such as these into law, we provide certainty for utilities as they manage market, economic, and technology changes,” said Department of Commerce Temporary Commissioner Grace Arnold, whose agency administers the state’s energy policies and programs.
Xcel Energy and Minnesota Power, Minnesota’s two largest public utilities, have publicly committed to generate 100% of its electricity from clean energy by 2050. More than 100 major global companies have also pledged to meet their energy needs with 100% clean energy by 2050 or sooner, with Minnesota’s own 3M and Target making this commitment.
“Fresh Energy applauds Governor Walz for bringing the conversation of 100% carbon-free electricity in Minnesota to the forefront. This is a pressing issue for Minnesota to tackle as soon as possible, especially as the United States prepares to re-enter the historic Paris Agreement,” said Michael Noble, executive director of Fresh Energy. “Not only is it time for Minnesota to re-establish itself as a climate leader in the Midwest, but it’s time for us to do it in a way that’s inclusive, ambitious, and benefits all Minnesotans.”
“Governor Walz’s proposal doesn’t just put Minnesota on a path to carbon-free electricity; it also ensures that workers and consumers are protected by strong labor standards and off-ramps to ensure that electric service remains reliable and affordable,” said Kevin Pranis of LIUNA Minnesota & North Dakota.
“The initiative proposed today by Governor Tim Walz and Lt Governor Peggy Flanagan is both bold in its scope and flexible in its implementation. This initiative will lead to lower energy bills and local, good paying jobs for Minnesota workers while reflecting the urgency of reducing Minnesota’s greenhouse gas emissions on a pace and scale necessary to address the climate challenge,” said Mike Bull, Director of Policy and External Affairs for the Center for Energy and Environment.
Governor Walz’s plan has four parts
Clean Energy by 2040. This standard would require all electric utilities in Minnesota to use only carbon-free energy resources by 2040, while setting interim goals along the way. It would also strengthen Minnesota’s renewable energy standard with new goals. The proposal includes provisions to assist workers and communities affected by the transition, while prioritizing local jobs and prevailing wages for large new clean energy projects.
Clean Energy First. This regulatory policy would require that, whenever a utility proposes to replace or add new power generation, it must prioritize energy efficiency and clean energy resources over fossil fuels. This policy would strengthen an existing renewable energy preference in Minnesota law, and it would allow for fossil fuel-based power only if needed to ensure reliable, affordable electricity.
Energy Optimization. This proposal would raise Minnesota’s Energy Efficiency Resource Standard for investor-owned electric utilities and expand the Conservation Improvement Program that helps Minnesota households and businesses save on their utility bills by using energy more efficiently. It would also encourage utilities to develop innovative new programs to help consumers and businesses switch to more efficient, cleaner energy. In addition, it would target more energy-saving assistance for low-income households.
Carbon Reduction Goals for Existing Buildings. This proposal would set a state goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions from existing buildings in half by 2035.
These policies build on the success of Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act, passed in 2007 with near universal legislative support and signed into law by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The law requires utilities to get at least 25% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025.
Minnesota has already effectively achieved that standard. By the end of 2017, 25% of the electricity generated in Minnesota came from renewable sources, such as wind and solar. Meanwhile, electricity produced in the state from coal declined to 39% in 2017 from 59% in 2007.
-Information provided by the Office of Gov. Walz.